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6 Fictional Fighting Styles (and How to Fake Them)

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1. Fighting style: Venusian Aikido

Where it comes from: Doctor Who

What it is: The eleven Doctors on the long-running British serial, while being of exceedingly varied temperaments, have all shied away from violence whenever possible. However, from 1970-1974, the third doctor, played by Jon Pertwee, became a master of Venusian Aikido.

Real aikido stresses self-defense while protecting the attacker from serious injury; the BBC’s time-traveler was no different. After defeating three armed men in 1973’s “The Green Death” the Doctor shouts, “Venusian Aikido, gentlemen! I do hope I haven’t hurt you!” before shuffling off to continue his adventure. At various times, the Doctor uses pressure points, kicks, throws, and even joint locks. While he never really gives anyone more information on Venusian Aikido other than its name, it proved more than effective at helping him out of jams even if he was a couple centuries old—he did only look 55 anyway.

How to fake it: Technically, the art is designed for Venusians, so you’d need five arms and five legs to really throw down. But from the looks of it, the Doctor’s style mostly consists of yelling “Hi-ya!” and tossing out some classic ‘70s judo throws and karate chops.

2. Fighting style: Mok’bara

Where it comes from: the Klingons

What it is: It wasn’t until Star Trek: The Next Generation that Trekkies got to see how the Klingons train. To be honest, Klingon Mok’bara looks an awful lot like Tai Chi. Practitioners use very slow, controlled movements intended to unify the mind and body, or to quote the Klingon Lt. Worf, “the form clears the mind and centers the body.” While Mok’bara can use weapons like the bat’leth and b’k tagh, the majority is devoted to Tai Chi-esque movement.

In the episode “Birthright,” a mid-plié Worf tells some students that Mok’bara is “the basis for Klingon Combat” just before taking down an uppity young Klingon who sneaks up on him. In a different Mok’bara class, Worf blindfolds a student half his size, tells her to defend herself, and then repeatedly knocks her down—to teach her what unfair means.

How to fake it: Seriously, it looks just like Tai Chi. There are plenty of videos online of people doing “Mok’bara,” and it’s really just Tai Chi. If you want a head start, though, listen to Worf: “First, you must learn how to breathe. Stand tall, as tall as you can.” Then, you just find a Romulan to beat the snot out of.

3. Fighting style: Baritsu

Where it comes from: Sherlock Holmes stories

What it is: Sherlock Holmes died falling over the Reichenbach Falls at the end of “The Final Problem.” Eight years later, Holmes came back having cheated death with baritsu, "the Japanese system of wrestling.” Using baritsu, Holmes slipped out of Moriarty’s grasp and avoided the fall. Strangely, this is the only mention of baritsu in any of the Holmes stories, and Sherlockians think that it should have been bartitsu, a martial art invented by British japanophile and expert mustache-wearer Edward William Barton-Wright. Barton-Wright hybridized judo, boxing, and fencing into his own self-defense method (the “bart” in “bartitsu” is from his name) much of it using a fashionable cane. Barton-Wright ran a bartitsu school for years but also published articles with wonderfully polite titles like “How to Put a Troublesome Man Out of the Room,” which sounds like a Holmes story in itself.


How to fake it: Even though baritsu isn’t real, bartitsu is, so you don’t even have to fake it. People still teach bartitsu in some martial arts schools. If there’s not a school near you, last year Ivy Press published Barton-Wright’s techniques in hardcover: The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence: The Manly Art of Bartitsu—as used against Professor Moriarty.

4. Fighting style: Klurkor

[Image source]

Where it comes from: DC Comics’ Superman

What it is: The Silver-Age DC Comics universe was chock-full of strange little plot devices that have been removed or changed since 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. In the pre-Crisis DCU, Superman comics often featured the miniaturized city of Kandor, the planet Krypton’s lost capital (because planets have capitals). Kandorians didn’t have Superman’s powers while in the city, so they developed a martial art called Klurkor.

Superman and his cousin Supergirl both learned Klurkor, but the style was most often used by super-girlfriend Lois Lane. Lois learned enough that in Lois Lane # 76, she calls herself “a master of Klurkor…a Kandorian improvement on karate” while beating the snot out of a thief.

How to fake it: Mostly, you’re going to use karate chops. But if you want to get serious, strap on some rollerskates and practice kicking people in the face. In Superman Family #198, Lois reminds herself and the reader about Klurkor just before skate-fighting some Metropolis Rockets roller-derby bruisers.

5. Fighting style: Omnite

Where it comes from: Logan’s Run

What it is: Omnite only appears in the original novel, not in the 1976 film. In the novel, all people have to be executed on their 21st birthdays. Those who run away (“runners,” get it?), are hunted by “sandmen” like Logan 3. Logan, like all sandmen, is trained in Omnite, a martial art built from many others: “From Japan: jujitsu. From China: kempo and karate. From France: savate. From Greece: boxing and wrestling. The finest points of each art were combined in Omnite.”

Let’s ignore the fact that both karate and kempo are Japanese and that French kickboxing is probably pretty ineffective.

Logan does manage to break out of an ice prison and escape a deadly robot with a Matrix-y Omnite technique where he imagines “there was no cell bar” before striking and shattering it.

How to fake it: Apart from wardrobe—foam-padded mittens, a short white skirt, and Michael York’s foppish haircut—the best way to fake it would be to learn a couple moves from several styles so well that you could effectively fight while on one knee, “the classic Omnite attack position.”

6. Fighting style: Weirding Way

Where it comes from: Frank Herbert’s Dune

What it is: Women join the Bene Gessarit, a politically powerful religious sisterhood of Reverend Mothers, by purposefully overdosing on melange (Dune’s magical drug-cum-oil-metaphor called “the spice”) and then mastering prana-bindu training, which kind of gives them superpowers. Prana-bindu creates mind-body unity that gives its users complete control over every muscle, so much so that they can contort in impossible ways or even bend just their little toes.


Instead of using this to start a circus, the Bene Gessarit created the Weirding Way. With the Weirding Way, a fighter can strike with superhuman force and speed. In Children of Dune, the Bene Gessarit woman Alia is capable of delivering “a toe-pointing kick which could disembowel a man.” On top of this, the Bene Gessarit have other powers that let them simply imagine themselves behind an opponent and move so quickly they appear to teleport.

How to fake it: Considering you probably shouldn’t try overdosing, this could be tricky. For the movie, David Lynch didn’t want to film “Kung-fu on sand dunes,” so he created “weirding modules” that turn voices into weapons. So, faking the Weirding Way could probably just be a microphone and some massive sub-woofers.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Library of Congress
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10 Facts About the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
May 29, 2017
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Library of Congress

On Veterans Day, 1921, President Warren G. Harding presided over an interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery for an unknown soldier who died during World War I. Since then, three more soldiers have been added to the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) memorial—and one has been disinterred. Below, a few things you might not know about the historic site and the rituals that surround it.

1. THERE WERE FOUR UNKNOWN SOLDIER CANDIDATES FOR THE WWI CRYPT. 

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To ensure a truly random selection, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from four different WWI American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and received the Distinguished Service Medal, was chosen to select a soldier for burial at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington. After the four identical caskets were lined up for his inspection, Younger chose the third casket from the left by placing a spray of white roses on it. The chosen soldier was transported to the U.S. on the USS Olympia, while the other three were reburied at Meuse Argonne American Cemetery in France.

2. SIMILARLY, TWO UNKNOWN SOLDIERS WERE SELECTED AS POTENTIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF WWII.

One had served in the European Theater and the other served in the Pacific Theater. The Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, chose one of the identical caskets to go on to Arlington. The other was given a burial at sea.

3. THERE WERE FOUR POTENTIAL KOREAN WAR REPRESENTATIVES.

WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

The soldiers were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. This time, Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle was the one to choose the casket. Along with the unknown soldier from WWII, the unknown Korean War soldier lay in the Capitol Rotunda from May 28 to May 30, 1958.

4. THE VIETNAM WAR UNKNOWN WAS SELECTED ON MAY 17, 1984.

Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr., selected the Vietnam War representative during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor.

5. BUT THE VIETNAM VETERAN WASN'T UNKNOWN FOR LONG.

Wikipedia // Public Domain

Thanks to advances in mitochondrial DNA testing, scientists were eventually able to identify the remains of the Vietnam War soldier. On May 14, 1998, the remains were exhumed and tested, revealing the “unknown” soldier to be Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie (pictured). Blassie was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. After his identification, Blassie’s family had him moved to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Instead of adding another unknown soldier to the Vietnam War crypt, the crypt cover has been replaced with one bearing the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

6. THE MARBLE SCULPTORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR MANY OTHER U.S. MONUMENTS. 

The Tomb was designed by architect Lorimer Rich and sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones, but the actual carving was done by the Piccirilli Brothers. Even if you don’t know them, you know their work: The brothers carved the 19-foot statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial, the lions outside of the New York Public Library, the Maine Monument in Central Park, the DuPont Circle Fountain in D.C., and much more.

7. THE TOMB HAS BEEN GUARDED 24/7 SINCE 1937. 

Tomb Guards come from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment "The Old Guard". Serving the U.S. since 1784, the Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in the military. They keep watch over the memorial every minute of every day, including when the cemetery is closed and in inclement weather.

8. BECOMING A TOMB GUARD IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT.

Members of the Old Guard must apply for the position. If chosen, the applicant goes through an intense training period, in which they must pass tests on weapons, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, uniform preparation, and orders. Although military members are known for their neat uniforms, it’s said that the Tomb Guards have the highest standards of them all. A knowledge test quizzes applicants on their memorization—including punctuation—of 35 pages on the history of the Tomb. Once they’re selected, Guards “walk the mat” in front of the Tomb for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of year and time of day. They work in 24-hour shifts, however, and when they aren’t walking the mat, they’re in the living quarters beneath it. This gives the sentinels time to complete training and prepare their uniforms, which can take up to eight hours.

9. THE HONOR IS ALSO INCREDIBLY RARE.

The Tomb Guard badge is the least awarded badge in the Army, and the second least awarded badge in the overall military. (The first is the astronaut badge.) Tomb Guards are held to the highest standards of behavior, and can have their badge taken away for any action on or off duty that could bring disrespect to the Tomb. And that’s for the entire lifetime of the Tomb Guard, even well after his or her guarding duty is over. For the record, it seems that Tomb Guards are rarely female—only three women have held the post.

10. THE STEPS THE GUARDS PERFORM HAVE SPECIFIC MEANING.

Everything the guards do is a series of 21, which alludes to the 21-gun salute. According to TombGuard.org:

The Sentinel does not execute an about face, rather they stop on the 21st step, then turn and face the Tomb for 21 seconds. They then turn to face back down the mat, change the weapon to the outside shoulder, mentally count off 21 seconds, then step off for another 21 step walk down the mat. They face the Tomb at each end of the 21 step walk for 21 seconds. The Sentinel then repeats this over and over until the Guard Change ceremony begins.

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